Chicago Cubs’ Joe Maddon is managing for his job in the second half

Joe Maddon / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Joe Maddon / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

As the Chicago Cubs enter the second half of the season, is it possible that Joe Maddon is managing for his life? At least his ‘Cubs’ life? It’s starting to look like it.

After Joe Maddon‘s second season with the Chicago Cubs, most people thought he’d die in Chicago as manager. In 2015, they beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, signaling a shift in power for the Central. Then is 2016, the Cubs won it all. Some ‘old-timers’ were wondering if they’d ever get to see it. But a 108-year ‘curse’ came to an end in one throw from Kris Bryant to Anthony Rizzo. And Maddon was the manager that got them there. Things have changed, and Maddon may be managing for his job in Chicago.

The first thing to understand is that Maddon will land on his feet. Some fans feel that ‘anyone’ can coach this team. Others think Maddon communicates with his players at a level that keeps them engaged. In 16 years as a manager, he’s won 1215 game to 1033 losses. And let’s not forget, he competed in the AL East with the Tampa Bay Rays with a minimal budget. In nine seasons, he finished over .500 six times and won 90+ games in five of them, including the AL Pennant in 2008.

Since he’s gotten to Chicago, it’s been more of the same. In the four and a half years he’s been with the Cubs, he’s recorded a managerial record of 434-304 with a World Series title in 2016 and four-straight postseason appearances. Compared to Tampa Bay, he has an ‘unlimited’ budget. And Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have used it–but not always to success. That’s a front office story; this is about Maddon.

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Much of the fans ire is towards his daily lineups–which change daily. Maddon likes to play the matchups, who’s hot, etc. This season, that’s changed a bit as dictated by the organization.

Maddon has been giving the lineups for the next series so players would be able to prepare. Even then, Ben Zobrist was ‘scheduled’ to start, but he went to Maddon and told him David Bote should start after having a great game the day before.

One of the other complaints about Maddon is his handling of the bullpen. But let’s be honest, there are very few managers who do well with this task.

Dusty Baker brought the Cubs within reach of the World Series–and also broke every pitcher he had–including Mark Prior. So this shouldn’t be a negative against him. Most managers do a terrible job managing their bullpen. And bullpens by nature can be suspect. It’s hard to ‘do well’ with them.

And, of course, the runners in scoring position has come to the forefront for the second year in a row. This is one that I can’t explain. Maddon communicates with his hitters daily, but Anthony Iapoce and Termell Sledge work with them the most. In three years, the Cubs have had three different hitting coaches. The guy who should’ve been best for the job, Chili Davis, didn’t seem to mix well with the players themselves. He was shown the door at the end of last season. For this, I have no answers or explanation.

Last season was the first year with the Chicago Cubs that the team didn’t have a better second-half than the first. They still played winning baseball at 40-30, but the Milwaukee Brewers went 41-24 and caught the Cubs. We all know how that story ends, so we don’t like to retell it.

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The fact of the matter is Cubs’ fans have gotten the taste of victory. Making the playoffs won’t cut it anymore. World Serie or bust, it seems. And the front office doesn’t listen to that stuff, but they can still hear it. It would be advisable for Maddon and the Chicago Cubs to leave as much distance between them and the rest of the Central.